Delay to ‘urgent’ repairs for schools at centre of safety concerns

Remedial work on all 40 schools built by Western Building Systems to finish end 2021

Ardgillan College in Balbriggan, Co Dublin, is one of dozens of schools which has been at the centre of structural-safety concerns. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin.

Ardgillan College in Balbriggan, Co Dublin, is one of dozens of schools which has been at the centre of structural-safety concerns. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin.

 

Plans to carry out urgent repair works to dozens of schools at the centre of structural safety concerns will not be completed until the end of next year.

Last year the Department of Education indicated that the bulk of this work would be completed in 2020.

However, in a statement released on Thursday evening, it said it will now be the end of 2021 before all 40 schools built by Western Building Systems (WBS) will have had permanent fire safety improvements.

A spokesman confirmed the details as it published an independent review into the “design and build” model of construction favoured by the department for these schools.

Design and build is a fast-tracked construction model that involves the prefabrication of some materials off-site.

Critics, however, say there is a systemic flaw in this approach which can lead to sub-standard buildings.

The independent review found that there is a largely consistent approach to the adoption of design and build internationally, based on the experience of Australia, the UK, Norway and California.

“It is clear in this report that design and build is increasingly seen as the default procurement method to deliver schools projects in the vast majority of regions investigated in this study,” it states.

The report was carried out by an academic team led by Prof Lloyd Scott and supported by Dr Alan Hore of Technological University Dublin.

This “desktop” review is the precursor to a wider independent review of the department’s design-and-build programme in the State.

Legal action

Minister for Education Joe McHugh said it had taken this approach to ensure it did not prejudice legal action initiated by the department against WBS and other construction firms.

The department is suing the company in the High Court on foot of structural safety concerns in relation to dozens of them. The firm, however, has insisted that the department had the final sign-off on the school buildings and is contesting the legal actions.

Remediation works have been required in 40 schools built by WBS in order to make them safe, according to department figures.

A department spokesman siad that by the end of the year, 22 schools will have been permanently remediated.

From the start of next year work will commence repairing the remaining 18 schools, he said.

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